A student’s take on Disability Services at UMass
A few weeks ago, I injured my hand quite badly, to the point of not being able to use my wrist and most of my fingers. Since the injury was to my right hand, and I am right handed, it has resulted in making a lot of simple tasks very difficult. This injury has made my 20-credit semester incredibly challenging.
Luckily, our school has disability services to help me out. I want to preface my discussion of disability services by saying the people that work there are all very sweet people. However, the system that is currently set up is not the best way to run things. Every little thing takes such a long time to process, which puts the student at a disadvantage when they need help the most.
The first time I went to Disability Service, I gave them all my papers detailing what was wrong with my hand; they took a copy, and told me that it would be about a week before anything got approved. While this was a little frustrating, I figured maybe they receive a lot of paperwork and need to check a few things before anything could be approved. It turns out that it doesn’t take that long to process it, it’s just that the person who does it only works Mondays and Fridays. So if anything happens to you in the middle of the week, you just have to wait. Within that week I was waiting, I had an exam. Without anything approved on an alternate test taking method, there wasn’t very much I could do. I emailed the teacher and luckily, that class had a “make up test day” where you can take a new test and replace your lowest grade. While I didn’t want to use the make up on that, I was able to make it through until my paperwork was approved.
After finally getting the email stating that everything was approved, I called to set up an appointment to talk to a Consumer Manager and figure out the best plan to help me. The school actually has a lot of services, which is great, but they are not the most accessible. We talked about finding a note taker for me in my classes, taking my tests at disability services, and using a program that types out what I say for papers. However, when I gave them the news that I had a test that Thursday, they informed me that a student must give them a week’s notice to take a test with them. Therefore, in order to take a test with them, I was supposed to hope that I was injured at least two weeks before I had a test, one week for the paperwork, and another week for the test. What are the odds of that actually happening?
Thankfully, as I mentioned earlier, the people who work there are all very nice. They went out of the way to bend the rules for me and make sure I could take the test at Disability Services. As for the note taking, I lucked out that two of my classes already had note takers so the notes were already available. However, I am still waiting for note takers in the rest of my classes. It’s been three weeks since I’ve been able to write, and I have to just sit and listen in my classes with nothing to refer back to. I’m sure disability services works great for people with more long term issues that they come in prepared for, but for anything more sudden, the current Disability Services’ system is not ideal. Your best bet is to just hope you don’t get injured in the first place.
Kate can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.